Saturday, May 18, 2019

Battleground Pennsylvania

At the Los Angeles Times, "Trump and Biden, potential 2020 rivals, both head to Pennsylvania, a key battleground":


President Trump and Joe Biden have twin obsessions: with each other and with the state of Pennsylvania.

Like iron filings to a magnet, both will be drawn in the coming days to Pennsylvania, which was key to Trump’s victory in 2016 and would be central to almost any scenario for a Democratic victory in the 2020 presidential campaign.

Their trips — Biden on Saturday, Trump on Monday — elevate an emerging rivalry that has them locked in a wrestler’s grip long before Democrats even choose a nominee.

Trump, fearing Biden poses the most serious threat in industrial states like Pennsylvania, is trying to diminish him with a barrage of tweets and derisive comments. Biden welcomes the attention and sees it as validating his central argument to Democratic voters: that he’s the candidate best equipped to beat Trump.

Together they are paying little attention to the 22 other Democrats running for the party’s presidential nomination, acting as if the starting gun has already been fired on the general election.

Their Pennsylvania itineraries are emblematic of their competing political strategies. Trump, aiming to energize the white working-class voters who brought him to victory, plans to hold a rally in rural Lycoming County in the central part of the state, which went for Trump by nearly 45 percentage points in 2016.

Biden, hoping to make up for his party’s 2016 shortfall among black and working-class voters, will hold his first large-scale 2020 campaign rally in Philadelphia, a bastion of black Democratic strength. Biden’s first campaign event was a union-heavy affair in Pittsburgh three weeks ago, when he threw down the glove before the president.

“If I’m going to be able to beat Donald Trump in 2020, it’s going to happen here,” he said.

Trump’s visit, during which he is slated to campaign for a GOP candidate in a special election who looks to be a shoo-in, comes at a perilous time politically. Public surveys show Biden leading the president in this crucial battleground. The latest Quinnipiac University poll in Pennsylvania found Biden out-polls Trump 53% to 42%, with especially wide margins among independent voters and women.

The Trump team’s own polling shows him trailing in the state.

That’s a far cry from his stunning 2016 victory in Pennsylvania, which, along with narrow wins in Wisconsin and Michigan, demolished Democrats’ “blue wall” of support across the industrial heartland. Not since 1988 had a Republican presidential nominee carried Pennsylvania or Michigan. Wisconsin hadn’t voted for a Republican nominee since 1984.

But Trump’s margin of victory in Pennsylvania was only about 44,000 votes out of about 6 million cast.

Ever since that upset, warning signs for the GOP have been flashing in Pennsylvania. In special elections in 2017, Democrats flipped some long-held GOP local offices, and Democrat Conor Lamb, a centrist, won a House seat in the heart of Trump country. The 2018 midterm election was a statewide blowout as Democrats won the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races by double-digit margins.

Moving to get a grip on the situation, the Trump political team a few weeks ago traveled to Harrisburg, Pa., for a meeting with Republican National Committee and state GOP officials to address concerns over party infrastructure, organizational readiness and their string of losses, according to two officials with knowledge of the meeting.

The Trump campaign officials — including David Urban, who oversaw Trump’s 2016 operation in Pennsylvania, and Trump 2020 political directors Bill Stepien and Chris Carr — “came to make it clear that they’ll be running the show,” one attendee said.

Trump’s hope for holding on to the state depends heavily on galvanizing Trump voters who may not have turned out in 2018...
Still more.

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